The small, white flowers of this plant release their romantic, sensual aroma after the sun sets.
Plant name (Latin): Jasminum officinale
Plant family: Oleaceae
Native region: Tropical and warm temperate regions of Eurasia, Australasia and Oceania
Growing habit: Shrubs and vines, with delicate, fragrant white flowers
Parts used: Flowers
Essential oil extraction method: Extracted from star-shaped white flowers that only bloom at night
For thousands of years, people have loved the sensuous, floral aroma of the jasmine flower. The soothing, uplifting fragrance drifts from warm cups of jasmine tea, and in many parts of Asia and the South Pacific, jasmine flowers are worn on the body. The essential oil is well-loved for its soothing, uplifting properties.
Why we use jasmine
Romantic and floral, jasmine is used in aromatherapy to help relieve nervousness, restlessness and promote muscle relaxation, as well as to help relieve dry and irritated skin.
How and where jasmine grows
There are about 200 species of jasmine, and their appearance can vary by variety, from an upright shrub to a climbing vine. Jasmine plants are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Eurasia, Australasia and Oceania. The greatest diversity of varieties is found in south and southeast Asia. Only one jasmine species is native to Europe, but some species have become naturalized in the Mediterranean. Jasminum officinale, the main variety used to make jasmine essential oil, is native to the Caucasus region of Europe, northern Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Himalayas and western China.
Jasmine plants prefer full to partial sun and like to grow in well-drained soil. Jasmine are deciduous, dropping their leaves in the fall, but some may remain evergreen and keep their leaves year-round. Jasmine leaf patterns can vary, but they frequently have either trifoliate leaves, where each leaf divides into three leaflets, or pinnate, where leaves grow in opposing pairs along the stem.
Jasmine will flower all summer, from June to September, producing white or yellow flowers, with four to nine petals. The flowers are around 2.5cm (just under an inch) in diameter, and form clusters of three or more blossoms. If you’ve ever brought a blooming jasmine home to a small apartment, you will know first-hand that jasmine flowers are deeply fragrant, and can quickly fill the air with their sensual aroma. Jasmine flowers can be night-blooming, fragrancing warm nights with their heady fragrance.
Many jasmine varieties are available as houseplants, but the most common is Jasminum. It is a vine, and is usually sold draped over a frame or hoop. When kept indoors, it blooms in winter, much to the delight of those living in areas with colder, darker winter months. There are also a number of jasmine plants that will grow outdoors in many parts of North America. If you are eager to add jasmine to your garden, check with a local nursery to see what varieties thrive in your region.
Jasmine in all its forms
For thousands of years, jasmine has been cultivated for its euphoric fragrance and used in many different forms, from fresh blooms to euphoric essential oil.
Jasmine essential oil
Jasmine essential oil has been one of the world’s most beloved aromas for hundreds of years, and was one of the first plants cultivated for its scent. Jasmine essential oil has long been treasured for its sensual, soothing properties.
Originally, the only way to extract the fragrance from jasmine flowers was through a slow, expensive process called “enfleurage”, in which flowers were stirred into hot fat in order to release their fragrance. Spent flowers were strained out and new ones were added until the desired potency was reached. The resulting “enfleurage pomade” could be used as is, or the fragrance could then be distilled into alcohol and the fat discarded or used in soap. Today, jasmine essential oil is usually extracted using a variety of solvent-based methods.
For hundreds of years, inhaling the calming aroma of jasmine tea has delighted and soothed tea drinkers around the world. Next time you need a soothing, refreshing break in your day, try a cup of jasmine tea. To make jasmine tea, tea makers infuse tea leaves with the scent of jasmine using special temperature- and humidity-controlled machines. Jasmine tea is most often made with green tea, but black, oolong and white tea are also used. Look for jasmine tea in your favourite specialty shop.
The use of jasmine in Ayurveda
Jasmine essential oil is considered a tridosha essential oil, meaning it is thought to pacify all three doshas, but is particularly noted for pitta conditions. Jasmine essential oil is also considered to have aphrodisiac qualities, and help to release inhibitions, induce relaxation, and encourage intimacy. Jasmine essential oil is thought to help release tension and uplift the mind, and release pitta aggravations such as anger.
Breathing in the aroma can help calm and clear the mind, and encourage relaxation and the release of tension. It is also thought to help restore positivity and encourage self-confidence, self-acceptance and love.
When used as part of a massage, jasmine essential oil is thought to soothe aches and pains, as well as the mind and spirit. It’s considered particularly beneficial to the skin, and is thought to encourage a natural radiance.
Jasmine in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Jasmine’s benefits are thought to vary by variety, but it is generally considered to be pungent and warm.
The symbolism of jasmine
Jasmine has a recognizable, heady aroma, which lingers on the air in the places it grows. When we inhale any aroma, the smell is processed by the olfactory bulb. This bulb lies at the the bottom of the brain, right next to the amygdala and the hippocampus—both of which help process emotion and memory. This may explain why jasmine has become such a powerful symbol in much of the world.
Jasmine’s meaning varies by place and culture, but it often symbolizes love, beauty or sensuality. Its pure white blossoms can also symbolize purity. Because the small, unassuming white flowers bloom at night with such a powerful scent, jasmine sometimes symbolizes the value of modesty.
In Thailand, jasmine represents motherhood and signifies love and respect. In Indonesia, jasmine is found at weddings, particularly on the island of Java. In the Philippines, where jasmine was introduced in the 1700s, jasmine is a symbol of honour and respect, and dignitaries are often presented with jasmine wreaths. Jasmine is commonly used in Hindu rituals across India, and women often wear it in their hair as a symbol of good fortune. In Renaissance Italy, the pure white jasmine flowers became associated with the purity of Mary, and jasmine flowers are shown in many religious paintings.
Many cities and countries have adopted jasmine as their symbol, including the Syrian city of Damascus, as well as Pakistan, Philippines, Indonesia, and Tunisia. It’s not the official state flower of Hawaii (that’s hibiscus) but it’s an unofficial favourite. Pikake, as jasmine is called in Hawaii, is frequently woven into leis.
The word jasmine derives from the Persian “yasameen”, meaning “gift from God”. Jasmine is sometimes referred as “Queen of the Night”, both because it blooms at night, and because the luscious fragrance is thought to inspire feelings of sensuality, intimacy, romance and love.
The history of jasmine
Jasmine is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran). It was found in Egypt as early as 1000 BCE, spreading from there through nearby countries.
In Ancient Egypt, jasmine flowers were added to luxurious hot baths. In true Egyptian style, they provided their dead with similar luxuries, and jasmine was one of the many flowers used to decorate mummies and tombs, and was also hung around the neck of statues.
In India, jasmine has been continuously produced in the southern city of Madurai since at least 300 BCE, or even earlier. During Sangam period (300 BCE to 300 CE), Tamil poets wrote about the flower. Jasmine also appears in the Vedas, the oldest Hindu scriptures, as well as the Kamasutra, and countless other works of ancient and medieval literature. To this day, jasmine is produced in Madurai for export and local use. Jasmine is used at weddings and in religious rituals, as a household decoration, and as a flavouring for sweets and tea. According to researcher Dr.Uma Kannan, jasmine was one of the first plants humans cultivated purely for its scent, which, coincidentally or not, is thought to be an aphrodisiac.
Jasmine probably came to China from south Asia during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 BCE) and quickly became popular. By the T’ang dynasties, starting in the 7th century CE, the upper class frequently wore perfumes, including jasmine. Jasmine tea was first documented in during the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279 BCE), but may have been invented earlier. At that time, jasmine tea was reserved for royalty.
In the late 1500s, Chinese writer Li Shizhen compiled the available knowledge of all the plants, animals and minerals believed to have medical properties into the Pen-tsao Kang-mu, or Compendium of Materia Medica. Among almost 2000 entries, he included 20 essential oils, including jasmine.
At some point in the 1500s or 1600s, the Arab trade network introduced jasmine to Europe and Europe’s budding perfume industry quickly embraced it. The finest European jasmine was, and still is grown in Grasse, France. Twenty-seven tons of jasmine are harvested in Grasse each year.
The variety known as jasminum sambac was introduced to Philippines in the 1700s. Traditionally used in flower wreaths and perfumes, sampaguita, as jasmine is known in the region, was adopted as the national flower in 1935. Jasminum sambac was also adopted as the national flower of Indonesia in 1990, in recognition of its long popularity.
Jasmine, Tunisia’s national flower, was introduced to the country by Andalusians in the 1600s. It quickly became a popular favourite—so much so that a change in the Tunisian presidency in 1987 and the Tunisian Revolution of 2011 were both dubbed “Jasmine revolutions” by some media organizations. Pro-democracy protests in the People’s Republic of China in 2011 also used jasmine as a symbol, in reference to the Tunisian Revolution.
The science of jasmine
Jasmine essential oil contains more than 100 active compounds. Key components include: linalol, nerol, farnesol, terpineol, jasmone (3-4%), trans-methyljasmonate, jasmonic acid, jasmolactone, methyldihydrojasmonate, cis- and trans-ethyljasmonate, benzyl acetate (4.5-25%), benzyl alcohol, phenylacetic acid, methyl heptanone, eugenol, eugenyl acetate, p-cresol, indol (2.5-5%), methyl anthranilate.